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Boat wreck survivors receive help and comfort from Red Cross

28 July 2009

Dozens of people disembark from a rescue boatTurks and Caicos Weekly NewsRed Cross volunteers and staff in the Turks and Caicos Islands have helped around 115 survivors of a tragic boat accident.

When a sloop overloaded with around 200 Haitian migrants capsized off West Caicos on 27 July, the emergency services contacted the Red Cross to help the survivors. An unconfirmed number of people lost their lives, but up to 60 people are missing and presumed dead.

The Red Cross sent volunteers, many of them first aid trained, to South Dock where they helped with the rescue effort.

Wide range of help

Linda Sweeney, Turks and Caicos Islands Red Cross director, explained: “We worked alongside medical teams and first responders to help the survivors disembark from the rescue boats and change their clothes. We distributed blankets, clothes, water and other drinks, as most of them were suffering from dehydration and sunburn.

“We also helped the medical team with triage, seeing to those in shock, getting people on stretchers and transporting around 70 people to Myrtle Rigby Hospital using all available vehicles, mostly pick-up trucks.”

The survivors who did not need to be hospitalised were taken to a detention centre and a sports centre, which acted as a mass casualty building. First aid volunteers remained at the detention centre late into the night, providing assistance to those in need.

Shock and distress

Linda continued: “This morning, I did a tour of all three holding spaces. Everyone was physically doing okay; they were in clean clothes, fed and being treated with as much care as possible.

“I called in the HIV Creole-speaking support group and our Creole-speaking volunteers. They came in for a couple of hours, as we needed to get survivors talking about their experiences. Many witnessed drownings and are suffering a huge sense of helplessness and guilt.

“I spoke to many survivors in this response effort. A 49-year-old man had left seven children behind to make a better life, paying $3,000 for passage. Another gentlemen, who was in severe shock, just needed his hand held, while he told me about the people who had drowned around him. I spoke with eight women this morning, who really only wanted to see kind faces. Almost everyone is in shock.” 

Respecting the victims

Linda worked with the emergency doctor at the dock to receive two boats with bodies pulled from the water. She explained: “My job was to call time of death. Everything was done with respect and kindness. 

“Our volunteers were just amazing. I was so proud to be part of such a group of responders and our efforts have been acknowledged and sincerely appreciated by the lead agencies.”

Find out more about the Turks and Caicos Islands Red Cross

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